Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), the biggest seller of hybrid vehicles, wants to boost supplies of its four-model Prius line as demand for the fuel-saving cars is outpacing the company’s initial U.S. target of more than 220,000 this year.
“We’re tracking well ahead of that,” Bob Carter, Toyota’s group vice president of U.S. sales, said in an interview this week in Los Angeles. “I’ve ordered additional production. I’m confident we’ll get additional production, but globally we’re seeing high demand, particularly in Japan.”
Sales of Prius, including the main liftback model and new v wagon, c subcompact and plug-in version, through April jumped 56 percent from a year ago to 86,027. Were that rate to continue, annual deliveries would top 250,000 units, based on a Bloomberg calculation.
Rising U.S. demand for the Prius, the world’s best-selling gasoline-electric vehicle, comes this year as a result of gasoline prices approaching $4 a gallon nationally and Toyota’s ability to supply a variety of models bearing the name. Prius sales peaked in 2007 at 181,221, and hovered around 140,000 during the past three years as a result of a recession and recalls that curbed demand and natural disasters last year that cut supply.
Including Prius, Toyota sold 114,331 hybrids in the year’s first four months, 17 percent of the 665,328 Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles delivered in the U.S. during that period. In April, Prius sales alone were 55 percent of all hybrids purchased in the U.S., Carter said.
Demand for Prius models is also surging in Japan because of new incentives for the purchase of fuel-efficient autos, Carter said. As a result, the company’s U.S. unit may not get as many of the cars as it wants.
“It’s too early to project any of those types of numbers,” he said. “We don’t have production confirmed at this time.”
Toyota, which reports earnings today, sold 215,458 Prius cars in Japan this year through April, up from 57,399, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association figures released yesterday.
The company, based in Toyota City, Japan, sold 178,044 light vehicles in the U.S. last month, about 1,600 fewer than the No. 2 U.S. seller, Ford Motor Co., at 179,658, according to researcher Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.
Separately, Toyota said in an e-mailed statement yesterday it will spend about $30 million to boost production of four-cylinder engines by 100,000 units annually at its Georgetown, Kentucky, plant by August 2013. About 80 jobs will be added at the factory, Toyota said.
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